The Role of the Coach in the 3rd Decade of the 21st Century

Coaching is in its most dynamic era as coaches’ work with an increasingly diverse population and face heightening demands from their athletes and the general public.  

There are broader aims, higher expectations, and more defined roles. There is access to greater information and visibility to a larger community in this digital age. All these factors make coaching both more exciting and taxing than ever before. The International Council for Coaching Excellence has established a framework of six (6) primary functions of a coach that will help to fulfill the core purpose of guiding development and improvement


Although one of the main roles of a coach is evaluating training programs and sessions, coaches must also support the development and education of other coaches.

Recent studies have shown that novice coaches are ill prepared in the following areas:

  • Motivating athletes

  • Managing and resolving conflict

  • Building relationships

  • Effective communication

  • Management topics

  • Competition preparation

Coaches can no longer depend upon their love of the sport to carry them through the complicated maze that is todays coaching arena. Therefore, coaches must develop or have available a plethora of skills to meet the needs of the athletes who they aspire to service. These include:

  • Knowing how to effectively communicate with the athletes

  • Understanding the learning process and training principles

  • Understanding and implementing the appropriate training methods

  • Understand the various coaching styles

  • Advise athletes on safety

  • Understand the causes and recognize the symptoms of over-reaching and over-training

  • Understand how to reduce the chance of injury for your athletes

  • Understand individual differences between athletes

  • Assist athletes to develop new skills

One of the KEY elements to being a successful coach is to understand HOW ATHLETES LEARN.

The main reason USA Weightlifting promotes the Top/Down, Part/Whole Progressive approach to instructing the lifts is because the remediation of instruction is built into the training. Another item of importance is to understand that poor habits learned early are almost irreversible and that the pursuit of proper technique is paramount in all aspects of training.

Athlete Quadrant

Finally how does a coach individualize and differentiate training in a group setting? By following the above listed Athletes Quadrant and the Top/Down Method the coach selects the exercises, sets, reps and weight that allow for the individual athlete to be successful during training.  An example of the use of the Athlete Quadrant is as follows:

Your athletes have a "Snatch" training session. However, where the athlete is in the Quadrant will determine the derivative of the Snatch based upon their individual progress. Novice athletes, which would be more likely in Quadrant A, would be performing Power Snatches from the Power Position while experienced athletes (Quadrants C and D) would be performing Power Snatch from the platform plus and Overhead Squat or competition snatches. The coach evaluates the quadrant and selects the differentiated training.

Nothing is of more value than the emotional, physical, cultural and even spiritual health of the athletes entrusted to our care. You can never control the factors that influence winning or placing but you can influence the factors that influence performance and in the very end it is performance that matters.